Yesterday I joined the Seafront Business Association in Bartholomew Square outside Brighton Town Hall to express our concern at the huge rent increases the Council is trying to impose on seafront businesses.
People love Brighton's unique seafront with its wide variety of unique, independent shops, pubs and clubs. The level of interest was very encouraging with BBC South Today, Meridian, The Argus, GSCene, Brighton Visitor all coming to cover us. I'm told we were also reported on several local radio stations.
I then presented the petition at the Council's Cabinet meeting, asking Council Leader Cllr Mary Mears for a response. Cllr Mears response was couched in lots of sympathy and concern for local businesses but basically argued that the Council have to get market rates for our popular seafront. She did say that she'd instructed officers to be sensitive and sympathetic to the difficulties businesses were experiencing at this time, a tacit acknowledgement that the approach thus far has been heavy-handed and legalistic.
The problem remains however that the Council's consultants seem to be valuing the rents based on the businesses being hugely profitable, running 12 months a year and that they didn't have significant upfront investment costs. Most of the current traders took on virtually derelict arches and spent large sums to get them into shape for business. Furthermore most cannot and do not trade all year round because of the weather. All it takes is one bad summer to put them on the edge.
I didn't hear any action to re-calibrate how council valuations are being done so the fight goes on…
Press release: Seafront traders take on town hall
UPDATE: Video of presenting the petition now online…
UPDATE 2: Video of the BBC South report now online too…